03 May Interview: Ancient Sun
Just a few weeks ago I mentioned I had stumbled upon the truly fantastic sounds of Ancient Sun. The quartet from Orlando left me impressed with their delicious saxophone and lead singer Rick Krasowski’s distinctive voice. I had to know more.
The band (Rick Krasowki – vocals/guitar, Tom Shea – saxophone, Brandon Miller – bass, and Jason Zane – drums) was kind enough to take some time out of their schedule to discuss their new single “Barefoot on the Moon,” upcoming Kickstarter campaign, and the love it takes to write new songs.
This awesome group will take the Tire Kingdom stage today at 2:15 p.m. Get there early!
How did you all come to find each other and make beautiful music?
Brandon: That’s a funny story. It was the Fourth of July, 2013. The place we play weekly now on Sundays is notorious for great music, so I dragged myself out of the apartment to check out my roommate’s band. A few hours and several drinks later, another bass player called me to the stage. Let’s just say I started the song and realized everything felt great. It doesn’t happen often that you’re playing with musicians for the first time and there is near zero tension in the feel of the music itself. I look over and realize there are three other guys on stage and they all happen to be members of Ancient Sun. I got the call in October 2013 saying they were looking for a bass player and jumped on the opportunity.
Please tell me about your name.
Rick: When we first formed the band we were working hard, writing songs, practicing, and getting to a point where we could go out and play gigs. So we got offered a gig, but we didn’t have a name. We were almost called “Of Echoes” because that’s the only thing we could think of, but no one loved it.
One night I was working an overnight shift, I was on three days of no sleep and driving home watching the sun come up. Working over night is the strangest thing. You go to work while the sun is down or setting, and when you clock out the sun is coming up and everyone is going to work, getting coffee, and starting their days. All I wanted to do was get home and go to sleep, but on the drive home I was being blinded by the sun and it just came to me…Ancient Sun.
I sent all the guys a message right away and they loved it. I remember our bass player at the time, who was impossible to please, sent back A+.
What is your favorite venue to play in Orlando? Do you plan to stay in the Central Florida city?
Rick: We are so lucky to have a residency at my favorite place to play. Every Sunday night for the last two years we have been playing at Tanqueray’s in downtown Orlando. Before we got our residency, Tanqueray’s was “my bar.” I was there almost every other night hanging out, drinking, and watching the best local bands do their thing. Beeb’s and Her Money Makers, Thomas Wynn and The Believers, Kaleigh Baker, Shak Nasti…they were all there. We somehow got a chance to play there on one random Friday night and rocked the place. A few weeks later the owner Dan asked me if we would like to start playing there every Sunday… I thought he was joking. Now two years later we are still playing “my bar.” Orlando/Central Florida is like our home base, but we want to tour and travel, we want to get our music out to as many ears as possible, and we want to make a living doing so.
Are you currently able to pursue music full-time? If not, what other jobs do you juggle to allow you to do what you love?
Brandon: I’m going to quote jazz saxophonist David Binney and say it’s always a struggle. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Resistance is normal. Whether you’re playing Mozart or R. Kelly, it is a form of art and you are an artist. The money is going to come from one of two places: demand for music or elsewhere. I’ve personally made my living in the last year doing freelance music and teaching. But there are odd jobs too. Tom and I have worked construction together. I’ve mowed lawns. Driven people to work, the airport, etc. You have to do what you have to do. Sometimes that doesn’t leave a ton of time to practice, but we’re not in it for the money.
Do you play covers or all original music? Can you tell me a little bit about your songwriting process? When do you do your best work?
Brandon: A little of both. Our songwriting process, since I joined the band, has been both a group effort and a somewhat private one. We’re currently working on new material and usually someone comes up with an entire body for a song before bringing it to the band. There are times, however, we end up just jamming on a longer gig and say to one another, “Let’s make something out of this.” We currently have two or three songs in the works via that process.
Personally, I write a ton of music while I’m practicing. Naturally some of it works for Ancient Sun, some of it doesn’t. I use my discretion before bringing it into rehearsal. I crank out the most amount of tunes probably when there is consistent work in some form or another. Woody Allen talks about having a routine. He’s right. It helps sift through all the madness so you’re focused more on what’s in your ear, what sounds good to you, than needing to write a song for an album exclusively. I think things come out better this way and you end up writing a lot more music.
Tell me more about your song “Tear You Apart.”
Tom: The song tear you apart evolved along with our band. When Rick first brought it to the table I honestly wasn’t sure how it was going to work out (but then again at that stage we never do). The lyrics were incomplete, but it had a great riff, and it was fun so we started playing it out anyway. It was immediately a crowd pleaser. It didn’t take long for me to write a horn line that I loved. Over time the lyrics came together, and trial and error built a song structure. Jason Zane joined in and added powerful dynamics to the song. Later down the line Brandon added aspects to the song that took it from being a simple riff driven song to something a bit more complex that still keeps people bobbing their heads.
I see you have an EP on Bandcamp, are more releases in the works?
Rick: The EP “Number One Rule” was our first real swing at recording. It really turned out to be more like really good demos. Good news is we just recorded a brand new single “Barefoot on the Moon” and by the time this article comes out you should be able to listen to it right on our Facebook page. “Barefoot” will be the first song on our new upcoming album. We are launching a Kickstarter at the end of May/early June and that will help us record the rest of the album and get us on the road touring to support it. I’m beyond excited for everyone to hear what we’re working on. Your booty will be shakin’ and your head will be bangin’.
The saxophone is the best instrument a band can have in their arsenal: True or False?
Tom: For the sake of self-preservation I’m going to have to say, “True.” Anything that’s not a guitar or keyboard can grab the attention of an audience simply due to novelty, but the saxophone can fit in with a horn section or hold its own on the stage as a solo instrument. It’s a unique instrument that fits what we do well. Despite having certain limitations (like for instance several octaves less range than the guitars on stage) it can express emotion in a way that rivals the human voice.
After recording two songs with the band’s original line up, I was invited to play a few shows with them. Rick, and our drummer at the time Chris, started talking and within a matter of weeks I was a full time member. From then on sax lines have been a fixture of Ancient Sun.
If you could pair your music with a meal, what would be on the menu?
Tom: I would pair our music with a slice of pizza (and actually in a sense I often do, we have a house gig every week right across from a great pizza shop). Pizza isn’t highbrow food; anyone can access and enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be something great. When time is taken to perfect that pizza recipe, and fresh ingredients are used there is no meal I would rather have. A great slice of pizza is what we strive for as a group.
Rick: …and some good whiskey.
Rick, who encouraged you to put your amazing pipes to good use?
Rick: I have been singing since I was very young. Both of my parents are musicians and were always singing around the house. That’s probably where it all started, but once I picked up the guitar I stopped singing. I was completely focused on making my voice come out of my guitar, because when you’re in high school singing is super lame.
It took some time and many failed bands to realize that I could front a band, I could sing, I have motivation and want nothing more than to play music for the rest of my life. Vocally, Jonny Lang is my number one inspiration following closely by Jeff Buckley, David Ryan Harris, Dave Grohl, Chris Robinson, and D’Angelo. I’ll never be D’Angelo but I can dream.
What band or artist would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Brandon: Honestly, if anyone ever said, “The Sound of Animals Fighting” (which they may or may not have, I’ll let you guess), I would shit myself. Probably because 1.) That’s incredibly humbling and 2.) It’s not entirely accurate. In fact, they may have been on something… I think as songwriters, those guys are geniuses. Musicians too. Obviously, however, we’re not exactly prog-rock as a genre, but it is the thought that counts.
What can fans expect to see and hear during your SunFest set?
Rick: You are absolutely going to hear our song “Tear You Apart” but we added a bit of a twist to it. Our brand new single “Barefoot on the Moon” will be played as well. The goal for not only SunFest but for all of our live shows is extreme audience participation. I want to see everyone dancing, shaking, head banging, and having a stellar time.
What does the rest of 2014 hold for you?
Rick: This year we are hitting it hard. We will be launching a Kickstarter in the end of May/early June that will be helping us fund recording our album, new merch, and helping us get on a national tour. We believe this is our year. We are driven and are passionate about what we are doing and the harder we work the more successful we will be.
What else should fans know?!
Rick: Check out all our social media. It’s crazy, but in this day and age Facebook “likes” mean so much. They help us grow our fan base, book gigs, and get our passion to a wider audience. So please like our Facebook page, come out to our gigs, and help us spread the word. Word of mouth is how this is going to grow and we thank each and everyone of you for coming on this journey with us.